Learning to drive? Here are some top tips to start you off right

You’ve done it – you’ve passed your first test, received those beautiful yellow L-plates, and you’re ready to hit the road and start driving. While this is a super exciting time, it can also be a little bit daunting. Being in control of a 1300kg machine as you hurtle down the highway is unfamiliar territory.

Well, first of all, you won’t be doing any hurtling any time soon (or ever – always follow the road rules and don’t go above the speed limit!). You’ll be learning with a family member or instructor, starting off slow and easing into higher speed roads. There’s a lot to learn, and a lot of new things to get used to – how can you prepare yourself for the journey ahead? What should you tick off that checklist before your first driving lesson?

Don’t worry – we have some tips for you to get you feeling as prepared as possible.

Sit in a car

Sounds kinda silly, but just find a car and sit in it. Preferably a friend or family member’s car (please don’t go sitting in strangers’ cars).

It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the layout of a typical car, where everything is, and how everything works prior to your first driving lesson. Cars will differ model to model, but the general layout is usually the same.

Get in there and get a feel for it – where the steering wheel and pedals are, how the indicators and lights work, how to adjust your rear view mirrors, and what the go is with the gear stick. It’s also a good idea to find out what the different symbols on a car’s dash and instrument panels are.

It’s not necessary, but it’s a great way to help you feel a bit more confident in front of the wheel and a little bit more knowledgeable than you would if you were going in completely blind.

 Review basic road rules

Again, this is not totally necessary, because your instructor or whoever is teaching you will run through everything again, but it can be helpful to refresh yourself on everything you learned before taking your theory test to familiarise yourself with the road rules.

Feeling confident behind the wheel is the greatest battle, so doing everything you can prior to hopping behind the wheel is a great way to start off right.

Don’t be too hard on yourself

Here’s the thing – you’re not going to be a perfect driver right away. We all have to start somewhere, and making mistakes is a part of the process. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Your instructor won’t make you do anything you’re uncomfortable with, and you’ll start off slowly. So take a deep breath and get driving. You’ll probably be driving somewhere like an empty car park during your first lesson or two until you feel comfortable maneuvering a car, so absorb everything you can during these sessions.

Get your head around the “cockpit drill”

What’s the cockpit drill? It’s the classic safety check you should be doing as soon as you get into the car, prior to getting out onto the road.

What’s involved?

  1. Make sure your doors are closed properly
  2. Adjust your seats and steering wheel to a comfortable driving position
  3. Get your seatbelt fastened
  4. Adjust your mirrors
  5. Make sure your car is in gear and the hand brake is off
  6. Turn on that engine and get driving!

“Cockpit drills” are essential, and the first thing you’re judged on in your practical driving test. In fact, failing to do these checks prior to driving could result in an instant fail – so learn these early on and make it an unconscious habit every time you get behind the wheel.

Dress appropriately

This might seem like a silly one, but it’s worth bringing up. Dressing appropriately doesn’t just mean wearing clothing you feel comfortable in, but also wearing footwear you can drive well in.

That means no to the flip flops, no to the slides, and no to the heels. You want a solid, flat shoe as you’re learning, so that you can accurately feel the pedal and won’t encounter any issues, like your shoe flying off as you change pedals. A classic sneaker is probably your best bet.

Eat and hydrate

Again, potentially a pretty obvious one, but worth reminding. Make sure you’ve had plenty of water and eaten enough so you can feel alert behind the wheel. There’s nothing worse than feeling hangry or getting a bit lightheaded from lack of sustenance, and if you’re super nervous before your first time driving, you might forget to take care of yourself!

 Ask plenty of questions

Learning is the best time to ask all the burning questions you have about driving and road safety. You may even have a bunch prior to even starting – if that’s the case, write them down before you start so you don’t forget.

If you aren’t sure – ask. When it comes to driving, you shouldn’t leave anything to chance, and honestly, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. All of your questions are valid, and when you ask them, you’ll know for sure.

Find an instructor you’re comfortable with

At some point during the learning process, you’ll need to have an instructor. And it’s a good idea to get one, too, because they’re guaranteed to be completely up to date on all of the current road rules, as well as give valuable insight into what your formal practical test will be like.

Learning something new is already nerve wracking enough, so finding an instructor you vibe with and you’re comfortable with is super important. If you don’t like someone? All good, find someone else. Feeling comfortable and confident is a big part of learning to drive, so putting your comfort first is something worth doing.

Ready to go?

Ready to hit the road? Which car do you pick? We recommend starting in a smaller car – something like the Skoda Fabia. Quick pickup, easy to manoeuvre (especially when you’re learning the dreaded parallel park) and just a fun, zippy model to start your driving years in!

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